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Wal-Mart Unveils Ambitious Eco-Friendly Program


If they green it, will we shop?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today officially unveiled its widely rumored plan to slap an “eco-rating” on products in its stores. The world’s largest retailer is betting that shoppers will care how green their purchases are — and maybe even pay more for environmentally friendly merchandise.

The green ratings will take years to show up on the chain’s shelves. In the first phase of its initiative, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers questions about things such as the amount of water used in producing items. The aim is to develop a green index for Wal-Mart products similar to the nutritional label found on the packaging for food products.

“Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke said in a statement. “And increasingly they want information about the entire life cycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. . . . We do not see this as a trend that will fade.”

Experts have said the ambitious program probably will spur suppliers to redesign products to reduce their environmental impact and improve their score. And that could cause broad changes in manufacturing.

Many of Wal-Mart’s suppliers already have taken their own steps to become more eco-friendly.

At Levi Strauss & Co., Michael Kobori, vice president of social and environmental sustainability, said the jeans maker had set water-quality standards for its suppliers and now recommends that its jeans are washed in cold water, as opposed to hot or warm water, to save energy.

Kobori said the San Francisco company was pleased with Wal-Mart’s new initiative and called it the next logical step to improve the industry.

“It sends the right signal to the marketplace and the right signal to the supply chain that sustainability is important,” he said. “We hope it changes the game.”

Source: Andrea Chang


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